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Mark Jenkins and Bill Rice should take a leaf from Sgt. Joe Friday’s book. Their article, “On the Waterfront: Active vs. Passive in Georgetown” (Streetscape, 5/10), about the Georgetown Arts Commission (GAC)’s voluntary effort to relandscape and maintain a small public park, is short on facts and long on innuendo.

GAC is a private, nonprofit community organization, not a front for business, as the authors imply. A majority of the 50-member GAC are Georgetown residents, and the president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) is a member of the board.

Georgetown residents strongly support the idea of adding several “active” amenities, including a Victorian cast-iron bandstand, to the National Park Service plan for a passive waterfront park. Residents fear that a totally passive park will be unsafe.

The idea for the bandstand is not a promotional project of the business community, as the article suggests. CAG has endorsed GAC’s bandstand proposal on several occasions in the past two years, most recently at an April 1996 meeting when CAG passed a resolution supporting GAC’s efforts to improve the waterfront park.

Jenkins and Rice report that GAC plans “monumental steps” at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, in the midst of a “14-acre” waterfront park. The last time we checked, the entire Georgetown waterfront was only 10 acres. And GAC has volunteered to raise private funds to relandscape and maintain only two acres of it, which is currently a poorly planned, unkempt park.

As for those “monumental steps,” the National Park Service plan calls for a fountain or some other “special feature” at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue. GAC’s initial concept for the park is even more modest, with a paved area gradually sloping down to the river’s edge and space on either side for art exhibits or just gazing at the river. Alas, no “monumental steps” here.

Jenkins and Rice do no better on getting the financial facts straight. GAC is an all-volunteer organization that for more than two years has been working to turn a seedy-weedy piece of public waterfront into a beautiful place for all to enjoy. The District government currently rents this area to private groups for large-scale entertainment events including festivals, concerts, and barbecue cook-offs. The District permits these groups to charge admission, lets them keep the profits, and does not monitor or control noise, trash, or other impacts on nearby residents.

In contrast, most of the events GAC plans for the bandstand park will be free to the public. The proposed lease between GAC and the District provides that occasionally GAC can rent the park to community groups for special events where admission is charged. But GAC has agreed to monitor these events to be sure that residents are protected from unreasonable disturbance. And the proposed lease requires GAC to spend any revenue from such events on park landscaping and maintenance. If any profits remain, GAC must turn them over to the District government. No get-rich scheme here.

District residents from Georgetown to Anacostia have long anticipated the day when the District government transfers the entire Georgetown waterfront area to the National Park Service to complete the ribbon of national parkland along the Potomac. This transfer will occur when renovations of the Whitehurst Freeway are completed.

GAC’s proposed lease will not disrupt the transfer of the waterfront from the District to the Park Service. In fact, both the District government and the National Park Service welcome GAC’s efforts to raise private funds to relandscape and maintain a portion of the waterfront park. Neither has the money in the foreseeable future to do the job.

Bad facts often make good copy. But Jenkins and Rice should know that good facts make copy that is even better.

Vice Chair

Georgetown Arts Commission